Hibiscus Teesdale

Last week I saw this very unusual recumbent for sale on Fecebook. I’m always trying to get my friends’ butts on recumbents, and this one appeared to have a more adjustable seat and size range than a typical Easy Racers bike. And look at that — Phil Wood hubs? So I bought it.

Amazingly, a visiting Chicago friend of mine was willing to meet the seller somewhere in Illinois, and the seller was willing to drive all the way from Western Iowa to meet my friend, and it miraculously worked out so that just days after my purchase, this appeared in my driveway:

Hibiscus Teesdale stuffed in the back of my friend’s small car.

The listing said the frame was built by Tom Teesdale of West Branch, Iowa. I looked him up, and discovered he was highly respected but little-known beyond hardcore bike nerd circles. He died in 2014, attending the venerable RAGBRAI cycling event. In his honor, I decided to name this purple giant Hibiscus Teesdale.

At first glance, Hibiscus appears to be an Easy Racers Fold Rush clone. I already own a Fold Rush, so I was reluctant to get another, until I looked more closely at the photos. Hibiscus is different.

Check out that jack shaft!

For one thing, she has a jack shaft. Instead of one long chain running from the crank to the rear cassette, she has two smaller chains: one from crank to jack shaft, one from jack shaft to rear chainrings. Since the Fold Rush chain often falls off and/or gets twisted when folding, this looked like a genius innovation. I could also see the handlebar stem was designed to fold in, a feature I wished my Gold Rush had. Was this the lightweight, improved-folding long-wheelbase recumbent of my dreams?

Ancient photos of the same frame design in green.

Well, no. The first thing I learned in real life was that her fold requires tools. In fact, she has an aluminum brace (the same gorgeous purple as the rest of her) that has to be unscrewed from the elastomer and unbolted from the frame before folding. There is no quick release on this brace; two wrenches are required. There is also no quick release on the handlebar stem. These are all old-school bolts, not Allen bolts, and in many different sizes, so I was glad to have a complete set of bits in my ratcheting wrench set, as well as an adjustable wrench.

Underside of the seat.

The seat, at least, has a quick-release, and is very adjustable, although you still need a wrench to adjust the seat support struts. You can see above there is plenty of room for it to slide back for taller riders, and forward for shorter ones. That makes it more versatile than a typical Easy Racers frame, but it is a whole lotta extra bike if you’re short.

Hibiscus is indeed huge. And heavy. I think she is made of steel, other than her brace. She is at least as heavy as my steel Tour Easy.

She also feels like she might be indestructible. I’m asking the seller if he knows the recommended rider weight limit. I expect she could accommodate heavier riders than anything else in my stable.

Closeup of the elastomer, which resembles a thick rubber hockey puck, between the rear tire and the seat.

Like the Fold Rush, Hibiscus has suspension created by the folding mechanism itself, similar to the suspension on a Brompton, another folding bike I cherish (I Bromptoned all over New York City when I lived there).

The ride is smooth and comfortable, but that could also be because the frame is so long, as well as the huge thick tires she came with. Usually I put narrower road tires on my ‘bents, but since she’s already wearing these wide nubbly shoes, I intentionally rode her on lousy streets, over cracks and gravel. I wasn’t looking for a gravel ‘bent, but now I have one.

Seller’s photo. I’m currently riding without the fairing (or mounts).

I thought the stiff “Cobra” style seat was an odd choice for a heavy suspended bike. I have a Cobra seat on my small Gold Rush, and the ride is very harsh, but that’s probably due to its stiff, small, aluminum frame. On this huge long suspended steel frame, the seat didn’t feel harsh at all. I liked that it held my back up straight.

8 speed cassette with Shimano Deore DX derailer.

I don’t know exactly when Hibiscus was built, but she is equipped with Shimano Deore DX components, which were apparently produced between 1990 and 1993. She has these charming bar-end shifters to match:

I’m pretty sure the handlebar foam is original. Hibiscus is remarkably well preserved for her age. I do need to replace the chains, as a few links are rusting.

Phil Wood hubs!!! I wonder if she also has a Phil Wood bottom bracket, like my modified Gold Rush, but I’m not gonna open her up to find out.

As of this writing, Hibiscus has been in my possession just over 24 hours. So far we’ve spent 17 miles together. I did many errands on her this afternoon, picking up and delivering things.

She is not fast. But the more I ride her, the more I like her. I don’t have room in my garage for 4 long wheelbase recumbents, so at some point one of my stable is going to move on. Will it be Hibiscus, or will it be Foldilocks (Fold Rush), Silver (Gold Rush), or Connie Bikeson (Tour Easy)?

Time to get a bigger garage.


Naming the New (to me) Bicycle

Recently my friend A. introduced me to her dog, Nell. 

“Same name as my vagina,” I said, citing an old social media meme that instructed the reader to “name your vagina after the last movie you saw.” At the time, the last movie I had seen was Nell:

My friend S. said the last movie she saw was “The Hustle” and we all laughed.

As of that conversation, the last movie I had seen was Shazam, on the plane home from France. Shazam would make an excellent vagina name, but I’m already attached to Nell. Like Nell, my vagina is almost impossible to understand unless you get to know her really, really well, and is probably better off without any more dicks in her life. Also, Jodie Foster is super hot.

But I do need to name my new (to me) bicycle, a used Lightning P-38 Voyager, and for this, Shazam is perfect. Shazam’s superhero costume is red with a lightning bolt; my new bike is red with the Lightning Cycle Dynamics logo:

Shazam transforms back and forth from a smallish mediocre kid to a big impressive stud; likewise my bike transforms from a compact collection of parts in a hard-shell case, into a strong impressive road recumbent.

Momo supervises the opening of the 26″ x 26″ x 12″ case. The rest of Shazam is still under the foam pad.
Assembly in progress. Lola tried to help by biting the ends of the cables.
Almost done! The only available reference was these videos, and the Voyager’s design has changed some since then. Fortunately, it was easy to find youtube videos of rear-derailleur-mounting, and other parts, such as the disc brakes, fit together like a puzzle. Bike mechanic-ing does not come naturally to me, but I’ve dealt with enough recumbents now to at least know that if I’m slow and patient, I can usually manage.
Success! I later installed the rear rack, which came with no diagrams or instructions and felt like it took almost as long as the whole bike. Then I rode her around the park. Shazam is the first short-wheelbase recumbent that has felt “natural” to me. As soon as I install a decent handlebar mirror, we’ll go on a longer ride. And if that works out, we may travel together overseas, which is the whole reason I bought her.

Another WOMAN Ride

Notice the W (8 miles) connects to the O (10 miles!! because of displaced retracing) at the top, rather than the bottom. This spared me 2 miles of gravel retracing on County Road 100 E, although I wouldn’t have minded them since I was on Connie, my big thick-tired steel Tour Easy, rather than Silver, my small skinny-tired aluminum Gold Rush.

As I wrote on Strava yesterday:

This is actually a really nice route, so I did it again (with a slight variation from before: see https://blog.ninapaley.com/2019/09/17/strava-vs-women/ ). This time I brought a gravel-appropriate bike. Note that Prospect, on the last leg of the “N”, is under major construction; I carefully rode along the dirt next to the partially-paved road-in-progress, but it is hazardous.

With the ride to the start and home from the finish, it’s a little more than 100 km.

Scenery and gravel on County Road 100 E, the right leg of the W.
Typical Champaign County view.
My magnificent, gravel-appropriate steed.
Road construction on Prospect, the right leg of the N. Up ahead was a lot of active heavy machinery, and a justifiably concerned worker warning me to “be careful” as I slowly pedaled along the dirt.

Related: Strava vs. Women


Strava vs. Women

I have been using an app called Strava to record my bike rides for the last four years.

Recently, Strava started promoting men in women’s sports. Specifically, a male cyclist named Rachel (nee Rhys) McKinnon, who has been setting “women’s” cycling records, because mediocre males still have physical advantages over elite females.

I have been urged to quit Strava and leave a one-star review. I may end up doing that, but I really don’t want to. Changing familiar apps is a pain in the butt; I have friends on Strava I will miss following; and I like having continuous records in one place. And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with the app itself (other than harvesting and selling data in an exploitative asymmetric system, but unfortunately all fitness tracking apps do that). The problem is that the company itself is pushing anti-woman policies. I don’t want to support their woman-hating propaganda, but the price of quitting is high, for me and other women who use the platform.

So today I did this protest ride. I “wrote” the word WOMAN with my bike, and titled the result, “Woman Means Adult Human Female.” The word required about 44 miles, plus 16 miles to get to the start point, and about 5 miles to get home, making the whole ride 65 miles — just over a Metric Century.

I designed the route on a competing app called Ride With GPS, which I also used to record the ride simultaneously with Strava today.  If I have to quit Strava, at least I’m familiarizing myself with an alternative.

My hope is that other Strava users will do similar protest rides, spelling the word WOMAN and titling it “Woman Means Adult Human Female.” Anyone can do it; Ride With GPS is free and its route planning tools are easy to use. It would be heartening to see people do this, and use the very same misogynistic Strava to connect with each other (I’ve already connected to 2 cool women bicyclists on it today, because of this ride!).

If you’re in Central Illinois, I’d be thrilled if you rode the same route! But beware it has 7 miles of gravel. I chose these roads because they were the only ones near me that could fit the full word, including a residential area to make the zig-zag diagonal of the “N.” Detouring around gravel wasn’t an option today, because I had to stick to the plan to “write” correctly. But if I can survive 7 miles of nasty gravel on skinny road tires, anyone can.

I also made this mini-route in Urbana that is so short (4 miles) you could even walk it. It goes through lovely, leafy West Urbana neighborhoods, and some very nice University of Illinois campus. Note that Nevada Street is quaint brick, and Lincoln Avenue is busy.

If you do your own WOMAN ride (or walk, or run, or swim, whatever) comment or tag or email me and I’ll add it to this blog.

UPDATE 9-18-2019: Another cyclist has already done a WOMAN ride!

Big ups to Rae Faba of Ohio!


UPDATE 10-13-2019: I did another 100km WOMAN ride, a variation of the same route: https://blog.ninapaley.com/2019/10/15/another-woman-ride/